The Restaurateur’s Online Toolbox: 100 Tips, Tools and Resources to Help your Restaurant Grow

Monday, October 22, 2007 at 2:26pm by Site Administrator

As the owner of your very own restaurant, you’ve definitely made it to the top of the food chain. You have complete creative freedom, unchallenged authority in the kitchen, and hopefully an ever growing clientele. Unfortunately, you’re also in charge of settling disputes among employees and sifting through mounds of paperwork. If only you could figure out a way to finish the boring chores a little faster so that you could get back to the dicing, sautéing, steaming, and saucing. To help you out, we’ve developed this online toolbox of resources and guides just for restaurateurs like you. Blogs

These foodie blogs are full of helpful tips and articles that let you know you’re not alone in your gastronomical undertakings.

  1. Restaurant Marketing Blog: Learn valuable tips to improve your marketing strategy and attract more people to your restaurant.
  2. Eater: If you own a restaurant or bar in New York, LA, or San Francisco, connect with this network to have the food editors review your place. Who knows? You could instantly become the newest local hot spot.
  3. Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter: Commiserate with this blogger as you read witty, upbeat posts about what it’s like to recruit chefs, servers, managers, and other restaurant employees.
  4. WaiterBell Blog: Check out fun, informative posts about customer service, dining etiquette, negotiating the dietary preferences of picky children, and restaurant finance issues.
  5. Blogspitality: Blogspitality is where "RH editors chew the fat." Recent rants include "No Babies on the Table, Please" and "Trying Too Hard." After reading these horror stories, you’ll feel better about your own management mishaps.
  6. Diner’s Journal: As the food and dining blog from the New York Times, the Diner’s Journal is always the first to announce up-to-the-minute trends and industry news.
  7. Customers Are Always: This blog explores the dos and don’ts of excellent customer service. Brief your staff on the principles found here, and your clientele will be impressed.
  8. The Restaurant Blog: The Restaurant Blog, from AllBusiness.com, posts articles like "Staffing Errors Can Cost You" and "Do Your Menu Prices Shout Welcome" to help you improve your guests’ dining experiences.
  9. Restaurant Talking Points: Browse categories like sales, training, and customer service to get detailed tips on restaurant management.
  10. Restaurant Girl: New York’s Restaurant Girl knows her food. Check out this blog for enthusiastic reviews, gossip, and interviews, and get design, holiday, or management ideas for your restaurant from these experts.
  11. Bickell’s Blog: Visit Bickell’s Blog for articles on buying restaurant supplies, featured chefs, industry news, and restaurant management training guides.
  12. Restaurant Spy: This London-based blog reviews the best restaurants in the UK. Become a member to share your news and opinions on the message boards or to advertise on their site.
  13. Vinography: Make sure your bar’s wine selection is complete with the help of this blog. Get serving tips, wine ideas, and more.
  14. Diners From Hell: Read fun "dining disaster" posts, share your experiences on the forum, and find out what customers really expect when they go out to eat.
  15. Diners Nation: Diners Nation is an unbeatable resource for restaurateurs. Meet up with other managers and owners on the forum, post and look for restaurant jobs with the help of Employment Guide, and catch up on industry news from all over the U.S.
  16. Musings from a Restaurant Maven: This seasoned restaurant lover posts clever, insightful articles about customer service, waiting for a table, tipping, and eating out with children.
  17. Barista Brat: Check out this blog for funny "rants and raves" from a coffee shop barista. Get tips on dealing with annoying customers, and find out what your employees really have to put up with when you’re not around.

Productivity and Organization Tools

These handy hacks will cut down on paperwork and leave you free to mingle with your guests, develop new recipes, and have more fun at work.

  1. Spongecell Calendar: Use this online calendar to keep track of meetings, deliveries, and those ever changing server schedules. Easy edit tools will keep your calendar neat so you’ll never have to scratch through or white out changes again.
  2. bubbl.us: bubbl.us is a fun mind mapping application that will help you organize all those recipe ideas and new ingredients you’ve been dying to try.
  3. SlimTimer: SlimTimer urges you to "make love, not timesheets." Create task lists for your employees or run reports on how much time everyone spends at the restaurant to keep track of pay records.
  4. Remember the Milk: Manage your to do lists with Remember the Milk. Add and edit tasks, set up automatic e-mail reminders, and store and organize different lists in the simple Web-based filing system.
  5. Planzo: Share schedules and important events with all of your employees with the Planzo calendar.
  6. Mailman: Organize, edit, and manage your e-mail contacts with Mailman. The security features are tougher than normal e-mail client address books, so personal information always stays safe.
  7. Viapoint Smart Organizer 1.4: This Google Desktop organizer will help you minimize all the papers you have floating around your office. File away invoices, calendars, and other information in the online system, and you won’t have to worry about misplacing your important documents.
  8. Goplan: This online project management and collaboration tool notifies you when project deadlines are looming and allows you to connect with clients, vendors, and employees in the secure network.
  9. iOrganize: iOrganize is "the ultimate notepad" for Mac users. File away random ideas, conversations, inspirational look books or photos until you have time to organize them after hours.
  10. Share It Now: This download allows you to share anything on your desktop, so that you can easily connect with vendors and clients without having to clog up your inbox.
  11. MindMeister: Two heads are always better than one! This ingenious collaboration application lets you brainstorm with other users to come up with new layout plans, marketing strategies, or menu ideas with vendors, investors, and anyone else who wants to help.
  12. Ikordo: The last thing you want to pull you away from the kitchen is prep time for meetings you wish you didn’t have to attend anyway. Ikordo lets you organize meeting notes little by little, and sends you notifications by e-mail so that you’ll never be late.
  13. Harvest: Keep track of time with Harvest, which helps you "improve your business, one hour at a time."
  14. Biz-Plan 3: Even though you’ve already got your restaurant, you might still need to tweak your business plan and marketing strategies a bit in order to attract more investors and customers. Biz-Plan 3 will help you organize your proposals and ideas in no time.
  15. Hyper Office: This online project management application is perfect for small businesses. Engage your employees in extra restaurant responsibilities like scheduling, task tracking and management, and more to help alleviate some of the pressure.
  16. Box: This popular file sharing system offers different levels of membership: individual, business, or enterprise. Send large files to contacts using Box instead of e-mail for a faster, more secure connection.
  17. LogMeIn: Perfect for workaholics, LogMeIn allows you to access your computer’s desktop and software from anywhere. That way, you don’t have to feel like you’re leaving the restaurant when you jet off to trade shows, conferences, or even (gasp!) vacation.
  18. activeCollab: Tired of being the only one taking charge of a particular project? Invite others to help you out by joining activeCollab, a project management tool that helps you "eliminate stress" and "manage success."
  19. PunchyTime: Asking your servers, hosts, busboys and kitchen staff to literally punch in everyday is unbearably old-fashioned. Keep track of time with this Web-based tool that will keep you organized and modern.
  20. Basecamp: Setting up Basecamp on your restaurant’s network will let you and your co-workers easily manage to-do lists, communicate about projects, and delegate responsibility.
  21. Neptune: Stop procrastinating and "get stuff done" with Neptune. This easy-to-use tool prioritizes and organizes your to-do lists for you.

Networking Opportunities

Meeting up with other professionals in your industry will help you link up with investors, vendors, and potential business partners. Swap tips and horror stories with your new friends at these great conferences, clubs, and networking sites.

  1. Hospitality Career Network: Find qualified employees or think about switching restaurants with the job bank at the Hospitality Career Network.
  2. National Restaurant Association: This official site notifies visitors of upcoming events, industry news updates, relevant legislation and immigration policies, and much more.
  3. National Bartenders Association: Encourage your bartenders to join this organization for benefit packages, meet other bartenders, learn about new drinks, and catch up on bar and alcohol-related news. Membership is free.
  4. National Association of Catering Executives: If your restaurant also offers a catering service, consider joining up with this organization, which sponsors regional leadership summits and conferences throughout the year.
  5. Women Chefs and Restaurateurs: Learn about the different kinds of benefits and services you can obtain by connecting with the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs community.
  6. Chefs Collaborative: The community at Chefs Collaborative is "dedicated to promoting sustainable cuisine." Visit their website to find information about local chapters, donating and support, and more.
  7. American Culinary Federation: The ACF is the "premier professional chefs’ organization in North America." Discover new ways to manage your kitchen, further your career, and meet other industry insiders who can help strengthen your restaurant.
  8. Black Culinarian Alliance: This organization assists black chefs, managers, and hospitality professionals bring cultural awareness and diversity to the culinary industry. Search for employees or become involved in a youth-oriented culinary arts program in your town.
  9. National Bar and Restaurant Management Association: Link up with other restaurant and bar managers to learn about liquor licensing, managing employees, customers service, and more.
  10. National Council of Chain Restaurants: This organization is excellent for managers of chain restaurants or independent restaurateurs who are interested in becoming a franchise. Access government resources, join a committee, or just get more information.
  11. Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance: Post jobs at the MFHA employment center, become a sponsor, or just read up on news about diversity and immigration in the workforce.
  12. LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn profile to meet other restaurant owners and managers in your area, search for employees, or share stories and ideas with your customers.

Marketing Tips

Check out these resources for tips and ideas when you develop your restaurant’s marketing plan.

  1. Small Business Marketing Tips: This index of helpful marketing ideas from Inc.com will increase your restaurant’s popularity and success rate.
  2. Unsolicited Marketing Advice: Check out this blog for excellent marketing tips for succeeding in a technology-driven world.
  3. Microsoft Small Business Center: Microsoft.com provides all kinds of marketing advice, from holiday-specific ideas to online marketing strategies.
  4. CouponCuisine: CouponCuisine promises to take your restaurant to the next level with their set of tools, mailers, and other marketing resources especially designed for their dining clients.
  5. "Restaurant Marketing Tips: Beyond Coupons": This article from AWeber.com is a detailed guide for increasing your clientele.
  6. Small Business Branding: This Web site discusses the benefits of online marketing, branding, local advertising, and other strategies.
  7. Developing a Business Plan: Sponsored by the CIT Small Business Lending Corporation, this project will help you organize your ideas into one succinct, effective business and marketing plan.
  8. Restaurant Voice: This blog specializes in food service management and marketing tips. Recent titles include "Destination Restaurant: Drawing Patrons from Neighboring Communities" and "Co-Branding and Multi-Branding: When and How to Use Them in Your Restaurant."

Articles and Guides

These crash course guides are great for designing the inside of your restaurant, registering your property, or just getting a little extra support when you feel overwhelmed.

  1. Liquor Control: RestaurantEdge.com provides tips and information restaurateurs who are trying to apply for a liquor license. Find links to liquor license sites for all 50 states.
  2. Maxey Hayse Design Studio: Find easy tips for designing nightclubs, fancy restaurants, and casual diners.
  3. Tips for Great Restaurant Interior Design: This article from ezine.com offers lots of good advice for DIY restaurateurs and provides links to professional designers.
  4. ABCs of Real Estate: Before plunking down a serious deposit on a piece of property for your restaurant, quiz yourself on the ABCs of real estate to make sure someone’s not ripping you off.
  5. RestaurantNews.com: This Web site is full of articles and links to resources like health inspection information, classifieds, supplies, market reports, and more.
  6. Running a Restaurant for Dummies: The famed "Dummies" series now tackles the restaurant biz. Visit this site and find articles about staffing the kitchen, finding investors, and creating a menu.
  7. "How to Develop a Restaurant Menu: This short video explores the dos and don’ts of developing the perfect menu to show off your talents and please your guests.

Resources for Raising Capital

These tools will help you attract and connect with investors, so that having to raise capital won’t slow you down.

  1. Circadian Funding: This firm actively matches investors with restaurants to form "a partnership of business."
  2. "Capital Venture, Angel Investors, Lenders": This guide advises restaurateurs on how to find the right investors and lenders when first starting out.
  3. Bank of America Franchises and Restaurants: Bank of America has several different restaurant and franchise departments to help you acquire loans and financial assistance.
  4. Startup Nation: Startup Nation is a terrific resource for enterprising restaurateurs who need startup capital, want to connect with vendors, or learn how to design top notch marketing campaigns. Designed "by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs," Startup Nation understands the unique struggles of small business owners.
  5. Craigslist: Try posting a request for investors on Craigslist. Offer a free meal, private tour of the restaurant, and lots of coupons to attract backers.
  6. InvestorQuestions.com: This is the place to ask all of your investment and lending questions anonymously. Find out what investors really expect to see in proposals, annual reports, and more.
  7. "The Best Time of Year to Find Investors": This website has lots of great tips and articles like this one to help you narrow down your search when looking for investors.
  8. RaisingMoney.com: Discover clever strategies for attracting sponsors and donors. This site also connects visitors to grant services, credit and tax information, and small business advice.
  9. Fast Pitch: This online networking community isn’t just about meeting new contacts. Sign up to get marketing tips, advice on how to write proposals, and more.
  10. Proposal Kit: Use this software to develop proposals and reports that you can present to current and future investors.

Tips and Tools for Managing Clients, Customers and Vendors

The following list provides resources for organizing contact information, maximizing communication between vendors, donors and employees, and increasing your productivity in general.

  1. Zoho Meeting: If you can’t make a meeting because you’re waiting on a delivery, or you’re having an uncharacteristically busy Tuesday, connect with clients over the Web. Zoho Meeting is an excellent Web conferencing tool that keeps you from having to leave the restaurant.
  2. Breeze: Breeze creates and organizes "amazing email campaigns," so that you can effectively reach all your contacts with style.
  3. Boldchat: Keep your computer signed in to Boldchat, a chat and support system that works with your Web site. That way, you can talk with visitors about any questions or feedback they may have.
  4. Moo: When your restaurant offers new specials or wants to advertise a snazzy event or fundraiser, design and print postcards with Moo.
  5. 8apps: 8apps sponsors "social networking for productive people." Connect food and beverage vendors through fun features like Handshake, Blueprint, and Orchestrate.
  6. Monkey on Your Back: If you need to whip a vendor or employee into shape, send them a virtual monkey to remind them of tasks they need to hurry up and complete.
  7. Guru: This Web site is "the world’s largest online marketplace for freelance talent." Search for freelancers to help you out with Web design, copyrighting, and other chores you probably don’t have time for.
  8. Xing: Log on to this professional networking community to search for new talent, meet financial backers, and recruit new customers.
  9. Comodo: This e-mail client promises secure, uninterrupted connections so that all of your conversations remain exclusive.
  10. Backpack: Backpack organizes your many to-do lists and contact sheets, making it virtually impossible for you to lose track of anything.
  11. Chaos Software: This Windows app offers content management and time tracking downloads that help you stay on your toes.
  12. Highrise: For an easy way to master client relationship management, use Highrise, which includes an address book, contact manager, and project organizer. You’ll be able to keep track of all your kitchen, financial, customer, and employee duties in one place.
  13. eFax: Throw that noisy, junky fax machine out of the back office and use eFax, a system that allows you to send faxes through your e-mail. The first 30 days are free.
  14. SightSpeed: Stop wasting time driving all over town for meetings. Set up video chat and video conferencing with SightSpeed so that you’re always close to the kitchen.
  15. Essential PIM: This popular, all-inclusive CRM software comes complete with calendars, address books, and project management tools. Use with Outlook, your Palm Pilot, or even your iPod.
  16. Wufoo: To keep in touch with what you customers really think about your food, set up a feedback form on your Web site using Wufoo.

Accounting Tools

From employee paydays to paying all your bills, these accounting tools have got you covered.

  1. BillQuick Lite 2007: This up-to-date software combines project management, time tracking and payment plans into one effective system so that you don’t have to spend hours calculating all your bills.
  2. QuickBooks: Use QuickBooks for an easy-to-use accounting solution. Check the Web site before you order to get the best deals.
  3. Adminisoft Freeware: This accounting software is completely free. Organize invoices, "keep track of who owes you money" and "record all your supplier details" with the same tool.
  4. FreshBooks: FreshBooks is a powerful invoicing tool that allows users to automatically send out notices, accept payments through PayPal, and file away all of your important data.
  5. Tick: Tick is a fantastic online tool that helps you track how much time you and your employees spend at work so that you can organize payroll and report back to your investors.
  6. Dimewise: Just because you’re a restaurateur doesn’t mean you can’t also be a financial genius. Use Dimewise to break down your different accounts so that you can analyze exactly how much money you’re spending and how much you’re making.
  7. Blinksale: Blinksale is "the easiest way to send invoices online." Edit, print, and send invoices with this super simplified software, which organizes data by client, date, or template.
  8. Microsoft Office Accounting Professional: If you’re comfortable with Windows, Excel, and PowerPoint, consider using Microsoft Office’s Accounting Professional to help you out when you hit the books.
  9. OneStep Accounting: With OneStep, you gain access to a hefty accounting package but also a business management program that will help you set up and run your restaurant.


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4 Comments »

  1. May I with all due humility suggest one more about marketing ideas for restaurant owners.

    http://stuff4restaurants.com/blog2

    Comment by Lindsay — October 24, 2007 @ 9:04 am

  2. Here is another really good collaborative web-based mind mapping tool that might be worth looking at comapping.com.

    Comment by Omar — October 25, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

  3. For Canadian Restaurateurs I’ve used http://www.RestaurantSource.ca which allows you to essentially create a free online profile for your restaurant.

    Using this site I’ve increased my restaurant’s online presence with very little work! :)

    Comment by Jim — December 22, 2007 @ 2:35 am

  4. Hey! It is really amazing to find these many valuable links in one place. I have a lot of intention to collect such information which is now satisfied by you. I would like to thank you very much for the consolidated report.

    Comment by purchasing a franchise — January 14, 2008 @ 9:43 am

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